Fiat, Alfa and Lancia’s ‘more unassuming’ stars shine in Paris

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The Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione was without a doubt the Italian Automaker’s trump card at this year’s Paris Motor Show. But, there were a couple of other models that ‘slipped in under the radar’ that also warrant closer inspection. Here are a few of these more unassuming stars of the Paris Motor Show 2006:

Fiat Panda 100HP
The Panda model continues to amaze by introducing a truly sporty version. Its very name, ‘Panda 100 HP’, tells you this is not just an exterior face-lift. The new car is fitted with a brand new 1.4 16v power unit that develops a power output of 100 bhp at 6000 rpm and a maximum torque of 131 Nm at 4250 rpm. When equipped with this engine, the Panda 100 HP reaches a top speed of 185 km/h, accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just 9.5 seconds and consumes 6.5 l/100 km over a combined cycle.

This performance, attractive by any standards, will satisfy young customers who continually seek performance but wish to stand out from the crowd. On the outside, the Panda 100 HP therefore reveals itself to be a car with a true sporty vocation with chrome spoiler and exhaust pipes, special bumpers with a sporty grille and new 15” alloys. The same aggressive stamp is also evident in the passenger compartment, where customers will appreciate a leather steering wheel, new sporty interiors and a black facia with chrome detailing.

The new Panda 100 HP complements the long list of equipment on the Emotion version, from which it is derived, with front foglights, rear disc brakes, special suspension, 195/45-15” tyres, leather steering wheel, 6-speed manual gearbox, split seats and special exterior add-on kit. Customers can use a Sport key on the facia to select the steering setting and accelerator response to enjoy the sporty drive to the full.
The Panda 100 HP colour range comprises five colours: red, black, white, blue and grey (the last two are new).

A special ‘Pandemonio’ pack available at the launch will also accentuate the sportiness of the new version with chrome side stickers (red if the body is white), red brake callipers, door mirrors and 15” alloys with silver treatment, sporty pedals and special interior mats.

The Fiat Panda 100 HP is currently under investigation for launch in SA.

Fiat Panda Panda (two energies, one movement)
The Tao symbol is a mark of universal harmony, beginning and end, yin and yang, black and white, male and female. A realm where opposites live together and enhance one another, respecting the rhythms and balance of nature. Customers who choose the Panda Panda love nature and respect it, although they wish to move in freedom. Opposites finally meet in the Panda Panda: driving satisfaction and low environmental impact, dual fuel and low fuel consumption. Twofold energy for a single movement.

Smart, practical, fun and environmentally sound: these are the distinctive features of the ‘Panda Panda’, the new minimum environmental impact vehicle equipped with a 52 bhp 1.2 engine with a dual petrol/methane fuel system.

This original Natural Power sets out to become the new benchmark in the sustainable urban mobility vehicle scenario. The Panda Panda is also even more innovative because it overcomes the drawbacks typical of methane cars. The floorpan, derived from the 4×4 version, incorporates two separate methane tanks, each with a capacity of 72 litres. The two tanks fitted in this way allow the same amount of room as on the original car for both passenger and luggage (more than 200 litres with the rear seats upright).

The 72 litre capacity allows a superior trip range that is about 300 kilometres using methane alone (20% more range than that offered by the Fiat Punto, for example). The fuel tank capacity remains unchanged compared to the petrol version (30 litres) thus ensuring peace of mind even where methane suppliers are thin on the ground.

The ‘Panda Panda’ confirms Fiat’s leadership in the methane sector and its continuous quest to find solutions that reconcile customer needs with the greatest respect for the environment. Methane vehicles reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 23% compared to the equivalent petrol vehicles and reduce particulate matter (PM) emissions to practically zero. Emissions when the car is driven in methane mode amount to 114g of CO2/Km compared to 133g of CO2/Km in petrol mode (NEDC cycle).

The Panda Panda will also be available with a Dynamic specification to ensure that even the basic version of the car is packed with creature comforts and may be customised on the basis of individual requirements. The new Panda version is also ideal for small company fleets since it can be driven around freely in any city centre.

There are no plans to bring the Fiat Panda Panda to SA at this stage.

1.4 16v Starjet power unit for Grande Punto
The Grande Punto range has become even broader with the introduction of the new 95 bhp 1.4 16v Starjet.

This new Starjet (EURO 4) powerplant applies three technologies at the same time for the first time in the world. It adopts a variable swirl combustion chamber system based on an intake manifold with phased Doppler anemometry (PDA), combined with variable valve timing (VVT) controlled by the injection control unit. This system allows a substantial part of the exhaust gas (EGR) to be recirculated to the combustion chamber to significantly reduce fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.

This is how it works. One of the two intake ducts is closed (deactivated duct) while the other stays open. The air taken into the open intake duct swirls around the cylinder axis to increase air turbulence inside the chamber. The continuous variable valve timing system delays exhaust valve closure due to an internal gas recirculation device to ensure that both cool air (from the intake duct) and part of the exhaust gases are present during the intake phase. The resulting mixture is responsible for a significant reduction in fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.

The new Starjet powerplant is currently under investigation for launch in local Grande Punto models.

Alfa Romeo 147 Q2
The Alfa 147 on show in Paris represents the world premiere of the self-locking front differential (known as the Q2) that maintains and implements all the attributes of a front wheel drive in terms of active safety and intuitive driving, while increasing driving satisfaction and control. The innovative system also guarantees some benefits typical of four-wheel drive but with decidedly lower weight and cost.

The Q2 system is based on the presence of a Torsen mechanical limited slip differential. This differential performs the specific task of distributing torque over the front wheels in a dynamic, continuous manner according to driving and road surface conditions. When combined with the exclusive front double wishbone suspension, the system allows particularly effective tuning of the car.

The Alfa Romeo engineers were fortunate because front-wheel drive already enjoys an excellent reputation among their customers (it is no mere chance that this alternative is chosen by most car manufacturers). Suffice it to say that over and above the general benefits of this type of structure (weight, passenger room etc.), the understeering behaviour of a front-wheel drive engine allows the driver to respond to vehicle stress more intuitively under limit conditions: hence the feeling that front-wheel drive is ‘more sincere’ than rear-wheel drive.

A significant increase in driving safety, in other words. Opponents argue that front-wheel drive can impair full driving satisfaction and control under certain conditions, giving rise to traction problems on corners, performance at the limit of understeer or steering reactions because the steering wheels are also the drive wheels.

Alfa Romeo has overcome this disadvantage by developing the Q2 system that offers all the attributes of a front-wheel drive system with significantly increased roadholding, traction and stability during over-run. At the same time, it lessens understeer during acceleration, the action of electronic controls and steering wheel vibrations. The following two practical examples highlight the technical potentials of the Q 2 system.

Example one: vehicle cornering
When cornering in conditions of poor grip (e.g. wet, snowy or muddy road) or during sporty driving, the inside wheels often lose grip due to the fact that the differential distributes torque to the wheel with the least load and takes torque away from the outside wheel that could be subject to higher friction since it has to bear the additional weight exerted by vehicle roll.

This situation may determine two different responses, according to the equipment on the car. On a model without ASR – VDC, the perceived result is slipping of the inside wheel, loss of vehicle control (strong understeer) and lack of acceleration when coming out of the bend. If the vehicle is equipped with ASR – VDC, the steering assistance systems cut in to take power from the engine by adjusting the throttle. This makes it impossible to modulate the accelerator and gives the driver the unpleasant sensation of a loss of power and interaction with the vehicle.

The result in both cases is a feeling of being at a standstill on leaving the corner.

– What happens if the Q2 system is present?
As the inside wheel begins to lose grip, torque is partly transferred to the outside wheel to ensure less understeer, greater stability, higher exit speed from the corner and fewer and less invasive vehicle control system operations. The nett result is an increase in driving satisfaction and full control of the vehicle.

Second example: ground with poor grip.
When driving over ground with poor grip, the traction of the drive wheels is often different. For example, when driving after a snowfall or heavy rain, one wheel is on the edge of the carriageway in direct contact with lying snow while the other is in a clean, dry area.

In these particular conditions, when the car sets off or accelerates strongly, the wheel subjected to critical friction conditions will slip with strong reactions on the steering wheel, unsatisfactory take-off and the need to make continual corrections to the steering wheel to maintain the trajectory.

– What happens if the Q2 system is present?
The negative effects are countered due to gradual transfer of torque toward the wheel that is able to exploit the greatest friction coefficient. This makes it easier, for example, to perform a hill start on a mountain road and safer and more comfortable to drive over road sections with poor surfaces.

The Alfa 147 Q2  is currently under investigation for launch in SA.

Lancia Delta HPE Concept
The Lancia Delta HPE Concept Car is having its world premiere at the Paris show. The car takes its inspiration from the practical, sporty, elegant car concept embodied in the Lancia Beta HPE during the second half of the Seventies to offer an up-to-date take on the idea of a sporty yet practical saloon (shooting brake).

This medium-sized car (4.5 metres long, 1.8 metres wide and 1.5 metres tall) ensures great roominess (particular in the back) and travelling comfort, outstanding accessibility and a versatile, modular and capacious boot. All this is coupled with a compellingly slender, sporty shape.

The Concept Car reaps the rewards of a century of experience to continue the tradition of the great medium-sized Lancia cars: the Aprilia, the Appia, the Fulvia, the Lancia Beta HPE, the Prisma, the Dedra and the Lybra – offering innovative features that encapsulate the best Lancia qualities.

The first quality is styling that reinvents the Lancia tradition with original body features: an overhanging ‘flying bridge’ roof, a large rear window without a lower frame and a chrome grille that reinterprets the classic Lancia grille of the 1950s for a new generation. A flash of chrome along the side underlines a great expanse of glass and adds an extra sporty touch to the side panels.

The second quality of the new car’s design is plenty of room for driver and passengers: the Delta HPE Concept Car is truly at the peak of its category in this respect, with a wheelbase of 2700 mm that translates into extraordinary roominess at the rear, where passengers can experience a standard of comfort worthy of a limousine. A sliding rear seat with reclining backrest allows the already spacious boot to be increased or it can be pushed back and tilted for total relaxation, like a business class seat on an intercontinental flight.

Superlative quality of life on board, is the new model’s third trump card for top level motoring: the car offers great noiselessness when in motion due to its sound-absorbent roof – plus plenty of light due to a generous sunroof and side windows. And more: all the relaxed pleasure offered by a sophisticated Bose® Hi-Fi with steering wheel controls and the perfect interior temperature assured by an automatic dual zone climate control system. Comfort also means being able to rely on a roomy, versatile luggage compartment of over 400 litres.

The Concept Car weds Lancia class and prestige with a hi-tech entertainment package including an MP3 player and, above all, Blue&Me®, an innovative Windows Mobile-based system developed through a joint venture between Fiat Auto and Microsoft. This combines the potential of Bluetooth® technology with a USB port so that customers can play their own favourite songs recorded on their smart mobiles, their MP3 players or their USB flash drives.

The fourth Lancia quality is interior design. Lancia has always been a byword for Italian craftsmanship and the new car’s interiors offer a judicious complement to the original, sophisticated exterior lines of its models. The new Concept Car is no exception: the passenger compartment, produced by the Lancia Style Centre, is a veritable lounge, where the facia, door panels and front and rear seats are the greatest exponents of Italian exclusivity.

And more. The fifth value expressed, strictly linked to the design of the interior, is the use of top-quality materials that are used not only for their looks but also the touch sensations they offer: including wood trim, chrome detailing, Alcantara and leather upholstery and velour mats.

The Concept Car is also designed to be equipped with a wide selection of petrol and diesel engines, all turbocharged and combined with 6 speed manual and robotised gearboxes with power ratings ranging from 120 bhp to over 200 bhp, plus tried and tested mechanicals optimised for comfort and handling by means of an SDC suspension (with electronic damping control) to further enhance driving satisfaction.

While Lancia will, in all likelihood, return to right-hand drive production, particularly for the UK market, at this stage there are no plans for Lancia to launch in SA.

And, for those of you that may have missed the star of the show,  here it is…
Alfa 8C Competizione, world premiere

The definitive version of the gorgeous exclusive Alfa 8C Competizione, Gran Turismo car that is to be produced in a limited edition makes its debut in Paris. The car, designed by Alfa Romeo, is directly derived from the concept car that aroused such admiration at the 2003 Frankfurt Motor Show and has benefited from the best technical and industrial know-how that the Alfa-Maserati Sports Centre can offer.

The cooperative venture between both manufacturers was conducted with a view to ensuring integration between the Alfa Romeo design departments and the Maserati production departments.

The 8C Competizione is inspired by Alfa Romeo’s glorious past, projecting its brand values of technology and emotion into the future. The historical allusions begin with the evocative name, recalling the great sporting tradition of Alfa Romeo. The 8C code was used to identify cars (racing and on-road) of the Thirties and Forties equipped with the revolutionary eight cylinder engine produced by the famous designer Vittorio Jano. The term ‘Competizione’ is intended as a homage to the ‘6C 2500 Competizione’, a sports coupé driven in 1950 by the duo Fangio and Zanardi in the famous Mille Miglia race.

The name, ‘8C Competizione’ is not an arbitrary invention but a distinctive mark of Alfa Romeo’s own sporting history. A veritable legend that has arisen out of the innumerable victories won on circuits throughout the world through the skill of men and their passion for racing, engine research and advanced technology and a reawakened taste for new challenges.

This link with the values of Alfa Romeo’s history adds extra poignancy to the term ‘Competizione’; when projected into the future it represents the sense of constant dynamism that distinguishes a brand engaged in a quest for excellence, increased competitiveness and technological innovation. This is the explanation behind the role of the new car, which is not a point of arrival but a point of departure designed to reaffirm Alfa Romeo’s unique place in the world: its ability to match a thrilling shape to driving satisfaction.

Styling and aerodynamics: tradition and innovation
The attractive shape created by the Alfa Romeo Style Centre makes this car with its two bucket seats unique in the Gran Turismo scenario. The designers have worked hard to ensure that the aerodynamic and performance demands have not altered the car’s original concept. The style maintains an incredibly clean shape, uncluttered by any element interfering with the overall harmony.

The solutions introduced on the Alfa 8C to achieve the highest levels of aerodynamic efficiency are not limited to the shape. Air wraps around the car and follows its natural course, unhindered by corners and unevenness. All the pillar and glass surfaces and profiles together with the door mirror shape and position have been optimised by mathematical modelling and also by wind tunnel tests and tests on actual models. Much attention has been devoted to the creation of a ground effect that has allowed a negative Cz (lift coefficient) to help increase stability at high speed, as on racing cars.

The compact dimensions concentrate the aggression of a car designed to ensure maximum driving efficiency.

The car surfaces are highly sculpted and skilfully moulded. In detail, the body is given extra dynamism by the horizontal furrow cut into the side above the front wheelarch. The big wheels and powerful musculature of the rear wings emphasise the model’s personality and strength without detracting from the lines that flow smoothly, almost as though to underscore the formal good looks of the individual exterior details: the drop-shaped headlight embedded, gem-like, in the front wing, the led tail-lights that are a blend of technology and rationalism, the spare door handle.

The front end still displays the distinctive Alfa Romeo traits, with a new interpretation of the ‘whiskers’ and shield.

The innovative shape heralds the details and proportions of future Alfa Romeo cars but is also redolent with past thrills and historical allusions: the 33 Coupé Stradale, the Giulia TZ and many other great names of motoring history. The Alfa Romeo style centre also developed new colours to emphasise the shape of the 8C Competizione that match the car’s sinuous shape while also suggesting modernity and a hint of technology.

8 cylinder 4.7 engine: Italian ‘belcanto’
The engine is the beating heart of any Alfa Romeo. In this case it takes the form of a brand new 90° V 8 cylinder unit with a cylinder capacity of 4691 cc that was designed with one aim in mind: to ensure extraordinary performance while still offering a smooth drive and being usable in all circumstances, from the track to city traffic.

The top engine performance figures may be summarised as a maximum power output of 450 bhp at 7000 rpm, a peak torque of 470 Nm at 4750 rpm and a top speed of 7500 rpm.

The layout of internal fluid movements and the cylinder head cooling system is designed to achieve high duct permeability and effective intake load cooling to maximise volumetric efficiency and engine performance.

Harmonisation of the intake and exhaust geometry together with the introduction of continuous variable valve timing on the intake camshafts and optimisation of the combustion chamber and engine calibration means that 80% of torque is available from 2000 rpm.

In sporty driving conditions over mixed routes, the power unit offers impressively short response times due to the high permeability of the intake duct and the low inertia of the flywheel-twin plate clutch system.

A crankshaft with counterweights at 90°, fully balanced through careful selection of connecting rods and pistons, ensures the engine runs with low vibration levels.

The engine block and base assembly is in aluminium with 5 main bearings to ensure the structure is very rigid with little loss due to friction. The cylinder heads are also in aluminium alloy.

 All the ducts (water, oil, secondary air) are cast directly into the engine to produce a system with great rigidity, low dimensions and guarantees of safe installation, i.e. great reliability.

Casting accessory systems into the main engine casting and the use of very rigid, thick-walled components ensures that little noise radiates from the engine and the components are very reliable.

Longitudinal engine packaging has also received particular attention, as evidenced by the introduction of a single chain timing system that guarantees exceptional lifetime dependability.

Special attention has also been devoted to the acoustic definition and tuning of the intake and exhaust in the quest for a sound timbre that enhances the car’s character and makes it unmistakable. The result is a full, distinctive sound, emphasised by the permeable intake system and an exhaust system with electronically controlled valves that enhance the car’s sound without infringing any type-approval or environmental constraints.

Transmission, robotised gearbox and self-locking differential
The engineers used a layout familiar from other Alfa Romeo cars on the 8C Competizione: the transaxle architecture with gearbox at the rear that is an acknowledged asset of Alfa Romeo cars. This layout allows outstanding dynamic performance while also offering the active safety for which Alfa Romeo cars are fabled.

The engine-gearbox unit is designed in accordance with a transaxle configuration that ensures the weight distribution is very effective for vehicle handling. Due to the small axial engine size and the integration with frame components from the drawing board, the entire power unit can be housed well back to ensure the required sporty configuration.

The 6–speed gearbox with computerised speed selection by means of levers behind the steering wheel is designed to ensure ultra-slick gear shifts and may be used in Manual-Normal; Manual-Sport; Automatic-Normal; Automatic-Sport and Ice modes. The self-locking differential allows acceleration and stability to be managed with extraordinary efficiency in all situations.

Suspension, wheels and braking system
In the very best Alfa Romeo tradition, the engineering is directly derived from the race track. The suspension on the new model is no exception, with a double wishbone layout, forged aluminium axle carrier and arms and extra strut for toe-in control.

The braking system offers perforated, ventilated discs with aluminium brake callipers to ensure prompt, effective braking even with heavy use. To ensure the car stays glued to the road, it is fitted with 20” tyres specially developed to ensure outstanding performance: 245/35 at the front and 285/35 at the rear, fitted on perforated rims in fluid moulded aluminium to ensure lightness and maximum brake ventilation efficiency.

To ensure the car is entertaining and safe in any driving condition, the 8C Competizione comes with the latest Alfa Romeo VDC, an advanced stability and traction control system to ensure the driver feels at one with his car.

Rigid, light structure
A rigid, light structure is the rule when configuring a good high performance car. This is also the guiding principle behind the 8C Competizione. In detail, the compact frame is in steel to achieve the greatest torsional rigidity to ensure an accurate, safe drive at all times while the body is in carbon fibre. This choice was motivated by the need to minimise weights while also optimising the car’s centre of gravity for better agility and handling on demanding routes.

Interiors: personality and technology
The car’s distinctive look comes from extensive use of composite materials on the facia and interior panels. This is a technical choice but also reinforces the car’s spirit and emphasises its personality. The same thinking lies behind the adoption of anatomical seats made out of carbon fibre that can be adjusted and customised on the basis of the driver’s physical characteristics (a facility previously reserved for racing cars).

Everything is designed and produced to ensure the greatest user-friendliness for the driver and whoever is lucky enough to share the thrill: relaxed driving position, intuitive instruments that are always visible, robotised gear levers secured to the steering column and easy to reach without removing your hands from the sporty steering wheel.
The carefully-crafted and detailed finish naturally allows the car to be customised to the driver’s taste and a choice of different interior environments is available.

The absolute satisfaction of a sporty drive
To see it is to love it: wide tyres, low-slung ride and styling of poised aggression. To die for, in fact. Hear the engine and weep: a full, convincing throaty roar. Now all that remains is to sit behind the wheel, engage first gear and you are off to try out your Alfa 8C Competizione. You are left with one doubt: how will you drive a sports model whose bonnet conceals a 4700 cc eight cylinder engine hat unleashes 450 bhp of power and 470 Nm of torque when you touch the accelerator.

The unexpected answer is: with great ease – even more easily, simply and instinctively than your normal car in fact. Provided you allow yourself the time and satisfaction (because this is about pleasure, after all) of getting used to the more direct controls and prompter responses: the sort you could only expect from a true sports car on mixed routes or – even more so – on the track where speed and transverse acceleration are much more controllable.

The new Alfa 8C Competizione is self-avowedly an Alfa in its uncompromising sense of control and driving satisfaction. Driving comfort and dynamic behaviour have always been specific features of Alfa Romeo cars: on this car, they amount to a real strength.

As the Alfa 8C Competizione is currently only available in left-hand drive, it will at this stage not be coming to SA.